Last Updated on September 5, 2023 by Lawrence Berezin
Can I block an illegal driveway?
It is lawful to park in front of an illegal driveway. But how do you determine if the driveway is illegal? That is the million-dollar question.
Let’s begin at the beginning.
The Driveway Definition and Rule
Firstly, what is the definition of an NYC driveway and the rule prohibiting parking there?
Every entrance or exit authorized under applicable law and used by vehicular traffic to or from lands or buildings abutting a roadway.
The Driveway Rule
4-08(f) General no standing zones (standing and parking prohibited in specified places). No person shall stand or park a vehicle in any of the following places unless otherwise indicated by posted signs, markings, or other traffic control devices or at the direction of a law enforcement officer:
(2) Driveways. In front of a public or private driveway, except that it shall be permissible for the owner, lessor, or lessee of the lot accessed by a private driveway to park a passenger vehicle registered to them at that address in front of such driveway, provided that such lot does not contain more than two dwelling units and further provided that such parking does not violate any other provision of the Vehicle and Traffic Law or local law or rule concerning the parking, stopping or standing of motor vehicles. The prohibition herein shall not apply to driveways that have been rendered unusable due to the presence of a building or other fixed obstruction and, therefore, are not being used as defined in §4-01(b) of these rules
We know a driveway is:
- An entrance or exit
- Authorized by law
- For chariots
- To enter or exit to or from lands or buildings
- Abutting a roadway
But a driver can’t:
- Stand or park in front of a driveway
- Unless a chariot is registered in her name
- At the address of the driveway
However, this rule does not apply to driveways that have been rendered unusable:
- Due to the presence of a building
- Or other fixed objects
- And is not being used as a driveway (entrance or exit to the property)
Or, an affirmative defense would be proving a driveway is illegal.
Did the NYC Building Department approve the curb cut?
As of August 28, 2017, it is mandatory to submit all curb cut filings in DOB NOW: Build.
A curb cut is a dip in a sidewalk and curb that enables a vehicle to drive to a driveway, garage, parking lot, loading dock, or drive-through. Before beginning a curb cut project, the Department must approve the proposed plans to confirm that the design meets safety and zoning requirements – and then issue a work permit. Construction permits for a curb-cut project will have different expiration dates, so plan accordingly.
Other City agencies also regulate curb cuts. For example, you must have sidewalk and curb permits from the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Construction Mitigation Coordination and install curb cuts according to DOT’s specifications. Contractors installing curb cuts must have a Home Improvement Contractor license from the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Curb Cut Permits & Your Project
- Complete the work permit application and submit the required documents through DOB NOW: Build.
- Obtain the Department’s application approval.
- File for and pull all construction permits.
- Complete the work.
- Close the curb-cut construction process.
Larry’s Driveway Guide
Here is one of Larry’s all-time favorite cheat sheets. You’ll learn:
- The NYC Traffic Rule, 4-08(f)(2)
- The definition of a “driveway”
- The NY State Law stating how to remove a driveway blocker
- Five Driveway Mistakes That Spell Disaster
- A fascinating list of the ten most blocked driveways in NYC
- And much more…
Illegally Installing a Curb Cut
Contractors who illegally install a curb cut – and the homeowners who hire them to do so – can face OATH/Environmental Control Board violations, court appearances, fines, and civil penalties. These costs can add up quickly since illegal curb cuts typically have multiple violations that must be corrected.
Overview of Curb Cut Requirements
Proposed work must meet specific technical requirements. You must hire a New York State licensed Professional Engineer (PE) or Registered Architect (RA) to submit your curb cut permit application to the Department.
Minimum Distances from Sidewalk Obstructions
- Trees: 7 feet
- Hydrants: 7 feet
- Light Poles: 7 feet
- Street Signs: 7 feet
- Utility Poles: 7 feet
- Phone Booths: 10 feet
- Residential Zone Easements: 5 feet
- Adjacent Driveway Edge: Varies with the zoning district
- Minimum Dimensions: 8.5 feet x 18 feet
- Varies with the zoning district
- Side, front or rear yard
- Within your building lines
- May not encroach the sidewalk
Check out community zoning restrictions
For example, in Carroll Gardens:
The NYC Department of Buildings issued tickets to three homes. Meanwhile, the visit followed a newspaper report that many residents of Fourth Place between Smith and Court streets were violating city zoning. That is to say, zoning law forbids parking in the front yards.
In other words, decades-old zoning laws are designed to keep the gardens that give the neighborhood its name designated such front yards as part of the street and not the homeowner’s lot, Thus giving the city oversight about what is a permissible use.
Two homes were summonsed for illegal front yard parking, and the third was found to have an unlawful curb cut.
“Parking is not permitted in front of the building,” spokeswoman Carly Sullivan added that a curb cut is legal only if the parking area is on the side or rear of the home in question.
I’ve written many blog posts about parking in front of a driveway. But this blog post refers to raising the defense of an illegal driveway.
In other words, you have to investigate whether the curb cut is legal.
In conclusion, If the curb cut was not legal, you’ve got a winning defense as long as you present the proper proof properly.
That is to say, the proper proof would include the results of your curb-cut search.
Check out the diagram and information above that sets curb cut requirements. If there is a tree two feet from the curb cut, it’s not a legal driveway.